You don't have to be big to make a go of it
Salty River Farm is small, and there are just two of us to get the work done ... with a bit of help from our boys. We are often suprised when people think we're bigger than what we are. We don't have alot of land, and we don't have a team of people who work for us.
We are keen to earn a living off growing good vegetables and show people that anyone can do it, you don't need alot of money ... or alot of land ... and as long as you're happy to work hard, it's possible to learn as you go along.
When we talk to people with a dream to market garden, they often think it's impossible unless they have lots of money or inherit a farm. It's not true, you can do if off a smaller piece of land, you could lease a couple of paddocks or buy a smaller block than what you think. And it doesn't need to be traditionally good growing land either.
The trick is to think differently.
So ... how do we do it?
The methods that we use to grow are intensive - both hydroponics and no-dig beds mean that you can fit more produce into a smaller area. And there is very little weeding - usually a time-consuming part of market gardening!
Hydroponics is a way to grow that is up off the ground and provides a perfectly balanced growing environment without being in the ground.
No-dig beds are made on top of the ground, and each season we top up the beds with new beautiful perfectly balanced soil.
The no-dig beds also mean that the crops are up higher than the initial ground - so don't get waterlogged in our sometimes wet northland conditions
We have learned that crop selection is important. We only grow crops that grow quickly and strongly for us. This means we can turn over crops quickly and they are abundant - therefore profitable. And we have accepted that we can't grow everything.
We have adapted and been flexible. During covid when our farmers markets were closed, we set up an online shop and started deliveries. Now it's an important part of our business. Being a small guy, it's important to be able to change and have an open mind.
We supplement our produce with other growers produce. Our long-term goal is to sell just our own produce, but for now, having a wider range of produce for our online customers makes us a viable business. When we can afford to build more infastructure so we can grow more volume, our goal will be possible.
When we bought our farm, we thought we needed as much land as we could afford to earn a living. Our small farm is about 17.5 hectares. Since we've been market gardening, we've realised we didn't need that much land at all. We only garden off 1-2 hectare!
We have a small amount cattle and goats, to keep the other parts of the farm grazed. Most years we sell our 'standing grass' to be made into hay. The income we have earned from raising and selling cattle and hay has been handy over the years. But we could have been on a smaller property and not had animals.
We really enjoy working for ourselves, living in a beautiful place, growing lovely vegetables and receiving compliments from our customers. For these reasons it is a very rewarding life and although we work hard, we are very happy being here.